Sigh. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing left to be said about the zombie movie. Ever since Danny Boyle’s inventive 28 Days Later resurrected the genre from the grave, we’ve been pummeled with unrelenting waves of zombie pictures. Big budget zombie movies, low budget zombies movies, movies with fast zombies, movies with slow zombies, zombie TV shows, zombie comedies…and holy shit, is there are a horror creation less deserving of so much attention? At least (non-sparkly) vampires are capable of having personality.
Spanish directing duo Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza shambled onto the scene in 2007 with [Rec], a horror feature that combined the fast zombies of 28 Days Later with the found-footage conceit of The Blair Witch Project. The approach passed for innovative in a subgenre as stillborn as the zombie picture, garnering international attention for the low budget feature and inspiring a shot-for-shot American remake; but in all fairness [Rec] was a fine horror movie in its own right. Three years after the less influential [Rec] 2, Paco Plaza returns alone to the franchise that made his career, and this time he’s elected to go where so many have gone before.
With [Rec] 3 Genesis, Paco Plaza eschews the found-footage approach—the one thing that distinguished the franchise from every other zombie movie made in the past decade—and replaces scares and thrills with slapstick comedy. Taking place at a wedding-turned-apocalyptic-disaster and running parallel to the events of the first movie, [Rec] 3 also adds nothing to the storyline of its predecessors. This begs the question: Why even call the movie [Rec]?
If the movie has a star, I suppose it is Leticia Dolera, who plays the blood-spattered bride dead set on reuniting with her husband (Diego Martin), but neither the bride nor the groom emerge as primary characters until the halfway mark. Plaza instead spends the first third of the movie establishing characters who are unceremoniously killed off as soon as the action starts. And then there’s the “comedy.”
Likely having exhausted all of his ideas on how to scare an audience, it seems pretty clear that Plaza is trying to ape Edgar Wright’s brilliant Shaun of the Dead. The difference is that Shaun of the Dead was really a fantastic romantic comedy that happened to feature zombies. That movie was really about slacker Simon Pegg maturing into a responsible adult in order to win back the love of his life; the walking corpses were just a catalyst for his personal growth. And that’s what made Shaun of the Dead great: It put the characters first.
[Rec] 3, on the other hand, puts the characters on the backburner and takes a shotgun approach to comedy. In the movie’s 80 minute runtime, the groom finds the armor of Saint George in a nearby chapel, puts it on, and runs around like a character from Monty Python and the Holy Grail; a party entertainer dressed up as “SpongeJohn Squarepants” (not to be confused with Sponge Bob because of a “copyright thing”) shows up and is eaten by zombies; the bride shears off her wedding dress with a chainsaw; and there are some casual jokes about French girls being slutty.
And through it all, there are the zombies: They shamble around, vomiting blood, biting people, and feasting on internal organs until they are killed in inventive ways by the remaining humans in the cast. One zombie is killed by having an electric hand mixer shoved into its mouth, a couple of other zombies are killed by our chainsaw wielding bride who never takes her heels off and somehow learns Kung Fu between the beginning of the wedding the movie’s bloody climax. It’s all very rote and obligatory.
If [Rec] 3 Genesis has one thing going for it, it’s that the cast and crew look like they had a ball shooting this movie. We’ve seen all of this before, and most of the jokes fall flat, but there’s a lot of fan service here and an infectious energy pervades the entire picture. I suspect diehard fans of the genre will eat this up, but loyal fans of the first two [Rec] movies will hate it. As for me, I’m pretty much zombied out.